2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Kayaking Lake Powell's Glen Canyon

The hidden side of a watery Utah playground.

by: Buck Tilton

PAGE 1 2

Little-Known Fact: The Escalante River, which feeds into Lake Powell, was the last river in the continental United States to be named.

Some 280 million years ago, the spot I'm standing on would have been at the far eastern edge of an extensive ancient sea. A while later (we're talking in geologic terms here), the sea receded and scorching winds shifted the remaining sands into dunes, some reaching 1,200 feet high. After more time, the sand compressed into stone and the earth heaved and tilted, creating the bedrock uplift of the Colorado Plateau.

Down through the sandstone poured snowmelt from the young Rocky Mountains, and grain by grain the porous sandstone washed away. Left behind was a magnificent canyon, which Major John Wesley Powell named "Glen" when he first traveled its length in 1869.

Major Powell wouldn't recognize it now. Whereas he could have stood on this spot and looked down into that muddy brown river surging nearly 600 feet below, I am cooling my toes in the brilliant blue-jewel water of Lake Powell. The lake began forming in 1963 after completion of the Glen Canyon Dam, and didn't reach its 186-mile zenith until 1980.

My tent, tied to buff boulders, sits below an endless low sweep of faded ruby-red Navajo sandstone and flaps idly in the wind that April so often brings. My lakefront spread occupies only a few feet of approximately 2,000 miles of shoreline (including 96 side canyons) within the 1.1 million-acre Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

An enchilada pie warms on the stove and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon stands open, oxidizing in the desert air. Chalk up another benefit of this excursion; weight is not a concern for the paddler of a kayak.

On this, our fourth trip to Lake Powell, we paddled south from Halls Crossing, one of five marinas, exploring and camping on isolated shelves and underneath fabulous shadowy overhangs. We build small driftwood fires after dinner and watch the light dance in ghostly patterns on the sandstone walls. Most of our time has been spent in slim side corridors sometimes barely wider than our boats.

To avoid the afternoon winds we've shoved off early each day, paddling on a morning mirror that reflects the painted precipices hundreds of feet into the flat water. Last night the weather took a turn as dense clouds formed darkly from the west and in a heartbeat blew into a torrential storm that sent us flying into the tent.

Here is an infinity of peace, gentleness, and raging beauty. We break from our reverie only long enough to make plans for another visit.

PAGE 1 2

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Posted On: Sep 01, 2014
Submitted By: CajunHiker
Trailhead Register
New random photo thread.
Posted On: Sep 01, 2014
Submitted By: Echo
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions